Despite season-opening loss, Summit Tigers hockey expects competitive season

Tigers fall to Crested Butte 7-2 in Engelbert’s first game as coach


Head coach JR Engelbert, left center, works with the Summit High School hockey team on Thursday, Jan. 21, during practice at Stephen C. West Ice Arena in Breckenridge. Assistant coaches Ian McCluskie, left, and Josh Schneider, right, also are pictured.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

The 7-2 final on the scoreboard didn’t reflect the level of competition in the Summit High hockey team’s loss to Crested Butte Saturday night at the Stephen C. West Ice Arena. But, then again, the primary focus for JR Engelbert in his first game as head coach for the Tigers was to see a level of effort — and elements of cohesion and grit — from the team in their first game back amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Through two periods, the Tigers fought and trailed a talented Crested Butte team 4-2 heading into the final frame. But three sudden goals by the Titans, including the third for Jack Lambert, helped the Titans pull away from their Peak Conference rival.

After the loss, Engelbert — a goaltender himself with the Breckenridge Vipers semi-professional hockey club — said he was proud of the effort senior Andi Bierbaum put forth in her first game as Tigers goaltender. Stepping into a net vacated by departed proven commodities in Jake Mallory and Marco Vogelbacher, Bierbaum turned away 29 of 36 shots on net Saturday night.

“The score is not reflective of the quality effort she put in, because she definitely gave us a good chance through the first two periods,” Engelbert said. “But as a team, it got away from us about five minutes into third period, and that ultimately proved to be the big difference.”

After Lambert’s hat-trick led the fast-skating, possession-patient Titans to the victory Saturday night, the Tigers are now looking at 12 more games in their regular season. That starts with a road trip to Dobson Ice Arena to take on rival Battle Mountain Friday night before returning home to Stephen C. West next Saturday night to host rival Steamboat Springs (7 p.m.). Heading into the rest of the season, Engelbert expects the Tigers to look to their defense as their calling card, and like Saturday night he expects the team to struggle at times creating offense.

“Where we are going to focus this week in practice is creating offense,” Engelbert said. “It’s their first game in over a year at this point, so the physicality — you don’t get that physicality in practice. I think game reps will be huge for them to get in the flow again. Because, the big thing with the forwards, is realize when you have time to make a play, rather than whacking at it and getting it away. When we were able to recognize that and do that, we were able to move the puck up the ice as a unit much better than when we had our head down and we were unsure of that coming hit.”

On the defensive end, Engelbert said Zach Carleton will be playing a lot of minutes, especially on a night like Saturday when the team was playing from behind. Engelbert commended Carleton for his physical play and offensive-minded nature carrying the puck up ice and hustling back to defend breaks.

2021 Summit Tigers Hockey Schedule

Jan. 30: vs. Crested Butte, L, 7-2

Feb. 5: at Battle Mountain, 7:15 p.m.

Feb 6: vs. Steamboat Springs, 7 p.m.

Feb. 12: vs. Crested Butte, 6 p.m.

Feb. 17: vs. Battle Mountain, 7 p.m.

Feb. 19: vs. Aspen, 6 p.m.

Feb. 20: at Steamboat Springs, 5 p.m.

Feb. 25: vs. Glenwood Springs, 7 p.m.

Feb 27: vs. Battle Mountain, 6:15 p.m.

March 5: at Glenwood Springs, 6 p.m.

March 6: at Aspen, 6:45 p.m.

March 9: vs. Steamboat Springs, 7 p.m.

March 10: at Crested Butte, 3 p.m.

Along with Carleton and fellow defensive anchor Foster Krueger, the Tigers’ first line featured Saturday night goal-scorer Ranger Stone — a forward Engelbert described as skilled, smart and competitive – as well as “sophomore sparkplug” Boone Steinberg, and physical senior Calob Mallory. The Tigers second line included Hank Kasch — who Engelbert said is supremely skilled with the puck — the competitive and scrappy Ryley Cibula, and speedy Cooper Pederson.

Stone played well Saturday night, assisting on the Tigers’ first goal of the game, via Calvin Hanson at 6 minutes and 26 second into the first period. Engelbert hopes once the Tigers improve their physicality and offensive cohesion, their depth will shine through. That includes the likes of defenseman Ethan VanderSchaaff, Blaze Ebbinghaus — who, like Carleton, likes to skate up into the offensive end — and freshman defenseman Cole Stuckey.

“In this first varsity action tonight I thought (Stuckey) played outstanding,” Engelbert said. “He’s somebody who is a really big bright spot for Summit High moving forward. Us coaches were impressed by his composure reading the game at the varsity level for the first time.”

Summit Daily Facebook Live broadcast: Crested Butte at Summit

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